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Sir Roger Penrose to deliver Pitcher Lecture

Sir Roger Penrose

Renowned British mathematical physicist and Oxford Emeritus Professor Sir Roger Penrose will speak at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Lewis Lab Auditorium as part of the A. Everett Pitcher Lecture Series.

His talk, titled "Before the Big Bang: An Outrageous Solution to a Profound Cosmological Puzzle,” is free and open to the public.

"We are very excited to have Professor Roger Penrose here at Lehigh to deliver this year's Pitcher Lectures,” says Huai-Dong Cao, professor and the A. Everett Pitcher Chair of Mathematics at Lehigh. “The public lecture on Wednesday should be a great opportunity for us to hear him elaborating on his new thinking about what may have occurred prior to the so-called "big bang," a cosmic explosion that many scientists believe occurred billions of years ago, resulting in the creation of the universe."

In addition to Wednesday’s public lecture, Penrose will also speak on “Twistor Theory: Old Ideas and New" at 4:10 p.m. Thursday, March 16 in the Lewis Lab Auditorium, and at 2:10 p.m. Friday, March 17 in Neville Hall Auditorium 3.

Penrose is highly esteemed for his work in mathematical physics, in particular his contributions to general relativity and cosmology. His name is linked to several theories and discoveries such as the Moore-Penrose inverse, the Penrose tiles, and Penrose diagrams. He also invented the well-known twistor theory, the mathematical theory that maps the geometric objects of the four-dimensional space-time into the geometric objects in the 4-dimensional complex space with the metric signature.

Penrose has been awarded many prizes for his contributions to science, including the Eddington Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society and the prestigious Wolf Foundation Prize for Physics (both along with Stephen Hawking, one of the world's leading theoretical physicists).

In 1994, he was knighted for his services to science. Penrose was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, Foreign Associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences, and was awarded the De Morgan Medal for his wide and original contributions to mathematical physics. To quote the citation from the London Mathematical Society: "His deep work on General Relativity has been a major factor in our understanding of black holes. His development of Twistor Theory has produced a beautiful and productive approach to the classical equations of mathematical physics. His tilings of the plane underlie the newly discovered quasi-crystals."

Penrose recently received the 2006 Communications Award of the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics (JPBM) for the discovery of Penrose tilings, or shapes that tile the plane aperiodically, as well as for the series of books that brought the subject of consciousness to the public in mathematical terms. In particular, the award citation praises his books The Emperor's New Mind and The Road to Reality. The citation states that the award is a tribute to the way Penrose has made the ideas behind high level mathematics accessible to large segments of the general public.

The series of lectures are held in honor of A. Everett Pitcher, who was secretary of the American Mathematical Society from 1967 until 1988. Pitcher served in the mathematics department at Lehigh from 1938 until 1978, when he retired as Distinguished Professor of Mathematics. He will celebrate his 94th birthday in July.

The lecture is sponsored by the Pitcher Lecture Series of the Department of Mathematics, the Provost's Office, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Department of Physics.

For additional information about Penrose's lectures, please call (610) 758-3731 or visit the Web site.

--Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Tuesday, March 14, 2006

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